Illustration by Dreampaint
Releasing on labels such as Hemlock, BPitch, Hessle, and Rush Hour, Cosmin TRG has been quickly building a catalog of decidedly left-field house and techno. At least it seems like it might be house and techno on the outside. A closer look at tracks from his album Simulat, though, finds that underneath and between the 4/4 is a strangely psychedelic and otherworldly approach to melody and rhythm. Some of the tracks sound like pensive film scores and cues while other tracks are indeed meant for the dance floor. It takes Cosmin TRG’s strong sense of artistic vision and comfort with finessing each type of sound’s details to get these extremes to fit alongside each other so comfortably as they do on Simulat.
The relentless “Amor Y Otros” beautifully captures the dichotomy of upbeat and low-key with shuffling drums backing a slowly unfurling melody. It’s only when the melody drops out in the second half do you realize just how much tension was created by the leisurely synth. This same kind of contrast was what made John Roberts such a stellar part of 2010 and it’s interesting to hear Cosmin TRG’s decidedly different take on it here. The Autechre-style abstractions that open “Ritmat” suggest this track will be going on an indulgent journey, but the pulse pounding kick assures listeners this track was meant to be moved to in front of towering speakers. “Fizic” calls to mind what would happen if acid was stretched out over a minimal track, with cut-off arpeggios riding on top of a straightforward and skeletal beat.
“Infinite Helsinki” is a gorgeously experimental piece of pure melody that hints at a large scope with hardly a beat in sight. What drums there are serve to amplify the foreboding mood and grand scale. That it’s placed between the rolling “Ritmat” and the minimal techno of “Want You To Be” with such is remarkable, even though the latter emphasizes melody more than percussion just as much. The brief “Interstellar Inflight Entertainment” is similarly minimal and stark, relyng more on sound design than orchestration. Likewise, “Osu Xen” would be quite effective in the next creepy science fiction movie, with rising and falling modulation and drawn out phrases that give way to high-energy beats and squiggling flourishes.
Curious gems like “Star Motel” and “Less Of Me, More Of You” attempt to meld the two sides of this Romanian producer’s brain, with playful melodies and jumpy drums working in perfect harmony with each other. The deep low-end provides contrast, though, giving the songs forward momentum as well as immediately catchy melodies. It’s somewhere in the middle of his two musical halves that Cosmin TRG seems to be striving for, and tracks like these tend to be the ones that make me look up and check the title on right away. In an album that pushes and pulls between moods and pace so often, those moments tie it all together and make the whole sound more consistent. If Cosmin TRG made a straightforward dance album or, conversely, a soundtrack, the results might not be as interesting. Combining this and letting them sit beside each other with tantalizing moments of overlap makes Simulat a unique tapestry, full of detours in the pattern that improve the whole spectacularly.